We bring ourselves wherever we go. Our hopes, our fears, our doubts and joys all come with us. We stop working, those stresses may go, but we may find we make up more stresses because we’re used to being stressed – we find it comfortable in a way. We stop worrying about getting ahead, but we worry if we are good enough at this new life. If we complained about the snow at home, we may find ourselves complaining about the heat in Mexico. Jon’s mother was famous for saying that “people are about as happy as they decide to be”. Can we decide to be different, can we decide to be happy?
I’m finding that it can be hard to remember what I enjoy. In the headlong rush through career and kids and mortgages I had little time for myself so I rarely had to remember what I like to do; most of my time was spent on what I had to do. Then we added boat renovation and cruising preparation to the mix and were busier still. Then we dropped the career and mortgage but added traveling by boat and living in the renovation space. Then we added a transition to a foreign country and changing ports and a new language to learn, and life has been very full indeed and I still am spending more time on “have to” than on “want to”.
Not that the “have to” items are simply a burden, I have thrived in my life to this point by finding challenge and some level of fulfillment in doing the mandatory items with gusto. I loved many aspects of my job, I found enjoyment in sewing items for the boat, I explored international cooking to make preparing dinner more interesting. Ok, cleaning the fridge I never quite found joyful, but the result was a relief. Likewise cleaning the house was infrequent enough to not impinge often on my happiness! But even this enjoyment I kind of mis-trust – I think much of my enjoyment was surmounting the challenge, improving, being better than I was – bringing challenge and stress into what could be learning acceptance and mindfullness.
The Buddhists have a concept of finding mindfullness in what we do – the thing itself doesn’t matter so much as the mindfullness with which we experience life. So before enlightenment you chop wood and carry water and it’s a burden. After enlightenment we still chop wood and carry water, but we know that the activity is essential and cannot drag down our mind / spirit. I do not claim to have cooked dinner with an enlightened spirit… I probably just wanted a good meal and… praise. Ok, there it is. I wanted rewards. Not so enlightened.
And then there is joy, play, laughter – all things as essential to healthy life as what we eat and moving and exercising. Checking off the to-do items are not likely to be full of joy and play – we need other people for full enjoyment and laughter. How do we get off the “must do” items and give ourselves the “just for fun” activities – if we can even remember what is fun! As an introvert I find it difficult to put myself out there. I think I seem self-contained to others. Similarly with activities – I have forgotten how to just go and explore.
There is still a deep part of my brain – and people close to me as well – that will tell me that what we are doing now is trivial and selfish. That exploration for its own sake is not a worthy activity. At most it’s something you are supposed to save for a couple of weeks a year of vacation. The front part of my brain is quite sure these nay-saying voices are wrong. I believe in fact that exploration is our root “job” as humans. That exploring and learning is the only way we shake loose our preconceptions and leave ourselves open for discovering truth about ourselves, about the world, about how to be in it fully.
In fact it is exactly the getting into an unfamiliar environment that makes changing and expanding more probable. There may be people that can sit in a dark room and become enlightened, but most of us need to be shaken up a bit. It may be that the discomfort I am experiencing now in our new mode of life is just that – cracks forming that will let the light into dusty places in our souls that have not been exposed in some time. But I think I have to stay a little uncomfortable in order to make real changes. I have to try some new things and new ways to know what is possible, what is fun, what is real. We all too easily say we have to get out of our comfort zone to really live fully – then find ourselves surprised that it’s darn uncomfortable outside our comfort zone. A shocker that is.
So, that’s where I am. A tad uncomfortable, a bit unsure, a little out of my comfort zone. And also in love with the salt water, delighted by the breezes, energized by the new people I’m meeting, captivated by the Spanish language and tantalized by new flavors and sights.